Report of the NEC to the 2nd National Convention of the Socialist Labor Party of America, Allegheny City, PA, Dec. 26, 1879.
by Philip Van Patten
Published in Proceedings of the National Convention of the Socialistic Labor Party Held at Turner Hall, Allegheny City, PA, Commencing Dec. 26th, 1879. Detroit: National Executive Committee of the Socialistic Labor Party, 1880; pp. 5-17.
Published in the USA prior to 1923, public domain.
Manually typed from the original and edited with a footnote by Tim Davenport.
Non-commercial use of this file permitted.
This keynote report to the 2nd National Congress of the Socialist Labor Party details the activities of that organization since its previous national gathering, held in 1877. Outstanding detail is give about the party press and the development of the various Sections of the organization, as well as electoral activities.
The NEC of the SLP had based itself in Cincinnati, Ohio in March 1878, in accord with the decision of the 1st National Congress of 1877, but had seen that Section, previously one of the most vital in the entire organization, shattered by factional infighting and discouragement over plummeting vote totals. Sometime in the following 24 months Corresponding Secretary Van Patten and the NEC had made their way to Detroit, site of a more vital local movement.
Van Patten details the bitter struggle between the Detroit-based NEC and Section Chicago over the latter's willingness to allow armed units of the workers militia groups known as the Lehr und Wehr Verein (Educational and Defense Societies) to march under a red banner, bearing arms. This had been the cause of sensational coverage in the popular press, leading the electorally-oriented NEC headed by Van Patten to attempt to reign in the radicals of Section Chicago -- who had only recently seen 18 strikers killed by the National Guard in an 1877 railroad strike of which Van Patten himself had been a prominent leader.
The squabble had been fanned in the pages of the SLP's official German-language weekly, Vorbote, which bitterly criticized the NEC and provoked the latter to briefly severe its connection with the paper. The rationale behind the NEC's advisement of party members to cease participation in the Lehr und Wehr Verein is carefully explained.